I Can’t: Setting Expectations

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“I can’t.”

Two of the hardest words to say or write, especially when we are setting our limits and expectations. We equate them with admission of failure, even when we’ve only been invited for a night out with friends.

They’re words I’ve been saying a lot in the last few weeks. I want one of those shirts I keep seeing among the cast: “I can’t . . . I have rehearsal.” That about sums up my life right now.

I don’t even have the head-space to write. All free time outside of work and rehearsal, I’m thinking about the show. Which is only for the better, as I am writing this on Saturday and Sunday kicks off the madness that is tech week. Also known as hell week, with good reason.

And you know what? I’m fine with this. Because I’m still doing something creative, something I love that energizes me and makes every day exciting. I’ve been given the chance to play an amazing role – something I never would have believed if you’d told me a year ago.

But it has been hard to say no. Saying no to writing is hard, even though I’ve given myself that permission and I truly believe and accept that it is ok. Saying no to time with family or dates with friends. I’ve had to say, “I can’t,” more times than I can count in recent memory.

Those two small words are powerful. They can be freeing. (As opposed to the self-critical, “I can’t.”)

And you will have to use them to protect your creative life, whatever it may be. It’s hard to remember to put self-care first. It’s hard to make creative things a priority when surrounded by a culture that devalues those things.

Life secret: most people will respect the boundaries you set. Even family, if they see that you follow through with what you say. (Of course, there will always be some who don’t, but they’re a whole separate post.)

So set expectations. Your creative life will thank you.

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